Artist brings new worlds to the LCVA

Published 12:04 pm Friday, July 15, 2016

Canadian artist Elly MacKay creates little worlds out of paper and light, and she’s introduced new ones to Farmville at the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts on Main Street.

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Her art is commonly viewed in the children’s books that she illustrated, such as “Butterfly Park” or “Shadow Chasers.”

CARSON REEHER | HERALD MacKay carefully glues coral pieces into place on her large-scale art piece. She wears scissors around her neck so they don’t get lost in her piles of carefully cut paper art.

CARSON REEHER | HERALD
MacKay carefully glues coral pieces into place on her large-scale art piece. She wears scissors around her neck so they don’t get lost in her piles of carefully cut paper art.

“Chasing Shadows,” the LCVA’s current art exhibition, opened on Friday and showcases a range of MacKay’s work, from a small “Curiosity Cabinet” to framed book scenes or a large- scale window showcase.

MacKay designed the window installation specifically for the LCVA.

Mermaids, jellyfish and underwater creatures swim and play across across the paper backdrop that fills the front window of the museum. At night, the scene comes to life with blue-green light illuminating the window.

CARSON REEHER | HERALD Elly’s husband, Simon, helps her construct stages and boxes for her art. Prior to the art opening, he could be found arranging hand-made light boxes, which showcase Elly’s small worlds.

CARSON REEHER | HERALD
Elly’s husband, Simon, helps her construct stages and boxes for her art. Prior to the art opening, he could be found arranging hand-made light boxes, which showcase Elly’s small worlds.

“I brought a shark in my suitcase,” said MacKay, referring to the large suitcase she brought with her to Virginia filled with her art.

Much of the installation was conceived and contrived at MacKay’s home in Big Bay, Canada.

“I like letting it develop organically, but I‘ve made all sorts of coral and jellyfish and squid,” she said. “I even had a whale in my suitcase, actually. I brought the entire installation on the plane with me, so I’ve been cutting all sorts of things out (over) the last couple of weeks.”

“I’ve never done anything this large,” MacKay said about the window scene. “Usually, my pieces are about 30 inches by 30 inches. This is about the biggest I‘ve ever done, so this is massive for me.” 

CARSON REEHER | HERALD  Friends of all ages gathered at the museum Friday evening to glimpse into MacKay’s world. Pictured, two guests look into a specially made curiosity cabinet, which contains windows into paper-cut scenes.

CARSON REEHER | HERALD
Friends of all ages gathered at the museum Friday evening to glimpse into MacKay’s world. Pictured, two guests look into a specially made curiosity cabinet, which contains windows into paper-cut scenes.

The piece in the LCVA window fills the 30-foot-wide space.

MacKay has been making paper art her entire life. Her mom, also a book artist, introduced her to the craft, just as she as done for her children — 8-year-old Lily and 4-year-old Koen.

To make one piece, MacKay cuts layers of Yupo paper, paints them with colored ink, and then arranges them in layers. Next, she adds lighting and photographs the scene using different lenses and filters. 

She typically creates two illustrations a week. Her husband, Simon, helps her to construct theaters and display cases.

MacKay’s work will be on display through Nov. 6. MacKay will be teaching workshops about illustration at the LCVA during the Virginia Children’s Book Festival in October.